The royal veil is sent by the King of Coramantien to beautiful women he desires. To its recipients, it is a symbol of both a man’s sexual invitation and a woman’s sexual submission. When the king sends Imoinda the royal veil, there is no note that explains what he wants from Imoinda, as the meaning of this sign is already well known to all the king’s subjects, both men and women. Imoinda also knows, probably from the stories of previous recipients of the veil, that to refuse the royal veil is considered an act of impious disobedience to the King, and is punishable by death. The royal veil is also a conspicuous sign to other men that the king has claimed this woman as his “property,” so they should “back off.” The veil’s recipient is supposed to immediately cover herself with the cloth and return to the king. Any man who sees a woman thus robed would recognize that she is one of the king’s chosen ones, and so is no longer sexually available.
The Oroonoko quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Royal Veil. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:).
The timeline below shows where the symbol The Royal Veil appears in Oroonoko. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
1. Oroonoko in Coramantien
...He cannot simply give Imoinda back to Oroonoko, however, because she was given the royal veil. The King feels spiteful, and decides against executing Imoinda (a noble punishment). Though both women... (full context)